Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Brewood Buddha Statue

When I first visited Mandalay in Myanmar (formerly Burma) in March 2008, I found the city as exotic as it had always sounded.

I was taken to see the 'Street of the Marble Carvers' where craftsmen produce marble statues depicting Buddha and other subjects. I thought that it would be good to support the work by bringing an example of their work back to Brewood but, on that trip, there was insufficient time to purchase a statue and make arrangements for its transportation.

This introduction to Mandalay was just one stage in a trip I call 'Round the World Five (RTW5) where I transited Bangkok before spending a night in Yangon prior to a River Trip on the 'Road to Mandalay'. Then, it was back through Bangkok and across the Pacific to transit Los Angeles on the way to Las Vegas. After tours to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, I flew to Cancun, Mexico to see the ruins at Chichen Itza. Then, it was on again for a few days in Cuba and Panama before making a long journey home transiting Mexico City and Frankfurt. All the posts describing this trip can be found here.

On my return to Mandalay in August 2008, I determined to allow sufficient time to select a suitable statue and organise its transportation. There's a post here which covers my second visit to the 'Street of the Marble Carvers' and there are a few pictures here.. I made the purchase and also arranged for it to be shipped to the U.K.

This visit to Mandalay was part of a longer trip I call 'Far East Two' (FE2) where I had a brief stay in Bangkok before visiting Yangon, Mandalay and Shan State. On leaving Burma, I stayed in northern Thailand in the 'Golden Triangle' area before sailing down the Mekong to Luang Prabang in Laos. After moving on to the capital of Laos, Vientiane, I returned home via Bangkok and Dubai (where I spent a couple of nights in the desert resort of Al Maha). All the posts describing this trip can be found here.

After various 'alarms and excursions' and the exchange of a number of e-mails extending over a period of about three months, the statue finally arrived safely in December 2008. A location had been chosen in the garden and the statue was moved temporarily into position - no simple matter when the statue weighs half a ton and a 'Geda' hoist had to be hired to raise the statue from the lower part of the garden to the upper section.

I decided that construction of the permanent shelter should await better weather so, in the meantime, Ann and Dean helped me to erect a six-sided 'gazebo' tent over the statue. Even this was not completely straightforward because we discovered that one of the plastic parts supplied as part of the assembly was the wrong type. Fortunately, Ann was able to arrange a replacement with the U.K. distributors. There matters remained until June 2010 when my builders were instructed to go-ahead with a brick structure.

It's hard to exaggerate the visual impact of more than 2,000 temples and stupas scattered across the Central Plain of Bagan in Burma. My pictures on my first trip are here and here. The buildings are of brick, originally with elaborate stucco work. However, the passage of time has resulted in most of the structures in Burma losing most, or all, of their stucco. Donors have restored or rebuilt many of the monuments in Burma which are normally left as simple brick structures.

So brick seemed the right choice for the shelter at Brewood. The shelter had to be tiny and much simplified compared with even the smallest monuments in Bagan and the characteristic 'spire' had to be omitted. Each time I've returned to Burma, I've added to my collection of pictures of the Buddhist monuments, giving me plenty of inspiration for the effect I hoped to achieve. I was lucky that my friend Charlie had agreed to carry out this rather unusual building project which he completed in August 2010, after which he took a well-deserved retirement.

As you may imagine, the Brewood Buddha has created considerable interest with visitors and it forms a physical link with the charitable work carried out by the 'Road to Mandalay' in Burma in which I've become interested. The posts describing the 'Road to Mandalay' initiatives can be found here.

For more pictures of the arrival of the statue, the tent and the construction of the brick structure, Click here.